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Your estate is made up of everything you own, which includes your personal possessions as well as your home, a car, bank accounts, insurance, furniture and more.

But your wealth is much more than just your financial assets. It includes your purposes, passions, family values, memories and stories that make up your personal legacy.

The purpose of estate planning is to give you the control over how your estate is distributed to the people or organizations you care about, and to preserve your legacy for the next generation and beyond.

Estate planning is also used for a number of other important things, including:

  • Providing instructions for your care in case you are unable to do so;
  • Naming someone to manage your financial affairs if you are unable to do so;
  • Naming a guardian for your children;
  • Providing for children or other family members who have special needs in a way that won’t affect government benefits, and protecting loved ones from the “incidents of life” – creditors, predators, and unnecessary taxes;
  • Providing protection for your assets, both during your lifetime and after;
  • Minimizing taxes and probate fees;
  • Planning for retirement and long-term care costs.

If you don’t already have an estate plan – or have one that needs to be reviewed and updated – make 2014 the year you get this done.